Performance Management Company Blog

Ideas on People and Performance, Team Building, Motivation and Innovation

Tag: high performance

Teamwork, Communications and Optimization of Performance

My friend Lou Carloni has been sharing ideas about people and performance for many years and a post I received from him this morning was one that got my full attention. The focus of it was on the issues of team communications, and, of course, I will add my normal spin around experiential learning and organizational performance.

Lou’s firm was hired to study communication needs in the Baltimore-Washington Region and they interviewed, surveyed, and held focus groups with over 1000 business professionals. The question asked was,  “If your organization had only enough money, resources, and time to perform training in one area of communications which area would it be:  Reading, Writing, Speaking, or Listening?”

  • Reading and Writing combined received 5% of the vote;  
  • Speaking received 40%;  
  • Listening received 55%.  

I agree with Lou on suggested solutions. One of them was to Get There In Person.

It is not just words, it is how those all come together to drive involvement and engagement, how the issues are framed and how possible solutions are discussed. It is really hard for most leaders to truly understand all the current issues faced by performers working to meet and exceed expectations of management and customers. It is just too easy to keep doing things the same way they were done before, what I always refer to with this illustration:

SWs One green color thin

The real impacts come from managers who get in front of people, asking about issues and opportunities. Lou suggests that words alone account for only 8-10% of the message in interpersonal communication; the spoken sounds account for 30-40% of the message; and the non-verbal elements account for 50-60% of the real message you are trying to send. While you might agree or disagree with the numbers, the presence of the manager up front, listening and supporting is the key.

We accomplish this with our Square Wheels approach and offer a variety of tools and toolkits to assist in the process of facilitation. I have blogged often about this in here and you can find inexpensive Square Wheels Tools on our website. We also support a variety of different team building exercises like Collaboration Journey and Innovate & Implement that are designed to involve and engage people in problem solving. All these products can be delivered by managers with their work teams.

Lou also talked about Gaining Power With The Person. To this I would also add, The Team, since people do work collaboratively in most workplaces. This connects to developing rapport and trust. One way to accomplish this with individuals, teams and groups is through our team building simulation, The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. In this design, the Expedition Leader exists as a person interested in optimizing ROI and results.  The expressed goal of the game is to Mine as Much Gold as WE Can!

The reality is that the tabletops do not plan well, do not collaborate and communicate with other teams, nor do they bother to ask the Expedition Leader for advice or assistance. The game leader, just like the workplace leader, exists to support individuals and teams, but the choices people make are more often to go it alone and not ask for help. In the game, and in the workplace, this measurably sub-optimizes results.

We sell a variety of different Dutchman games, at different price points, for repeated organizational use. You can find out more information about the Lost Dutchman game by going to our website.

Performance feedback is a critical component of good performers and good results, but my work with organizations has continually shown that a wide variety of improvements can be made to impact performance results. You can find a free Feedback Analysis Tool through this blog post.

Lou also talked about Skills versus Attitudes, and I am not sure that these two things are operating against each other or part of a series of competencies that are all important. I am working up an article on Flow for the blog and for the articles section of my home page. Skill is important and there is a continuum of them and skills interact with the perceived challenges people face. Flow is when these mesh together…

I will not reflect herein as to how I see differences between Lou’s thinking and mine on this other than to say that I prefer the way Bob Mager deals with the question. Lou’s website is:  http://www.smbcinc.com

Hope you found this of interest and use,

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Rewarding High Performance in The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine teambuilding game

Managers do not often deal with good performers in effective ways. Relying on extrinsic rewards is often a formula for completely missing the real underlying motivation of many high performers. Extrinsic reward systems are often problematic and cause more problems amongst the bottom 70% (who never win and are thus losers) or generate behaviors that are not congruent with missions and visions of the organization. I chat about that in a lot of my blog posts, most recently this one. There are a lot of posts on extrinsic motivation here.

The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a team building exercise that is a bit unusual in that it focuses on the collaboration between tabletops to optimize the measured results. It is only partly about winning — it is more about what the higher-performing teams could have done differently to support the lower performing teams to optimize overall results. The goal is, “To Mine as Much Gold as We Can” and to optimize the Expedition Leader’s return on investment. Obviously, the more ALL the teams perform, the better the overall results.

It also tends to generate a My Team, My Team, My Team kind of response in so many cultures that tend to reinforce competitiveness as a basic operational strategy — something that tends to make the words “Interdepartmental Collaboration” an oxymoron in so many companies. The reality is that more collaboration will most certainly improve organizational results, engagement, service, cost reduction, innovation, etc.

"My Team, My Team, My Team" focus can cause more competition than collaboration

A “My Team, My Team, My Team” focus can cause more competition than collaboration. The goal is to optimize organizational results, not win!

In Dutchman, teams can spend an extra day gaining information that enables them to optimize their results. One metaphor is a strategic planning one that allows them to re-allocate resources to have a better likelihood of success. The other is a Best Practice, one that enables them to move faster. It also gives them things to share with other teams – Turbochargers that double the speed of movement.

We’ve been supporting a network of consultant users and trainers since 1993 and have received most excellent feedback. As I note in another blog, we recently had the first Perfect Play that I have heard of. Some groups or triads within larger groups come close, but none got it perfect until David Simpson’s group of three teams with the retailer Coach. Now, the issue is optimizing post-game impacts and generating increased collaboration among the store managers now back at work.

Perfect Play has its own results summary powerpoint show.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

We first show what ONE team could do to optimize their results — it is about planning and using information and resources properly. Their path would look like this, with the 20 days numbered in the circles:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz007

They reach the Mine on Day 8, using up all their resources and returning on the last day possible, Day 20. The summary of results and resource use looks as follows and they had a surplus of $50 worth of stuff as well as two Turbochargers that they could have shared with two other teams (if they chose to). That sharing would have generated six more days of mining if all things were good.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz008

But the real Perfect Play occurs when two teams decide to collaborate with each other on the planning and then involve another group into their collective. That looks like this:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz009Instead of one team mining 9 gold, this framework allows for two teams to mine 10 and that extra team to mine ELEVEN. This has only occurred in David’s game. And it makes for a great debriefing, in that a lot of the right organizational optimization behaviors have occurred in play, the teams managed things in a relatively stress-free mode (with no fear of real failure) and it carries over very neatly into the discussions of what they could choose to do differently.

A high level of information sharing is needed. The resources are tight to generate this perfect result:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz010

And that very last part needs special mention.

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz011

To get a Perfect Play, the three teams need to ask for $50 from the Expedition Leader! I mean, is that a perfect design or what?!!

From among 100 or so debriefing slides, we might emphasize these six:

Microsoft PowerPointScreenSnapz005

LD Debrief Triad 2

 

Our goal is to get successes among the players and among the teams, show the direct advantages of inter-team collaboration in the game, and bridge to the special advantages of inter-team collaboration back at work. The opportunities to share resources, collaborate, share best practices and help each other be successful in operations has huge leverage within the workplace as well as between departments. So, we use these kinds of handouts to generate ideas for improvement and discussions about choices we are making:

Adobe ReaderScreenSnapz001

And, my new game will focus even more attention on post-game collaboration and organizational improvement. You can see a few of the game design ideas here.

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

 

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

Ideas, Innovation and Strategy Implementation – Getting Things Done More Better Faster

I have loved this quote since I first heard it 15 years ago at a conference:

If we’re not getting more better faster
then they are getting more better faster,
then we’re getting less better
or more worse.

— Tom Peters

Ideas are simply that, “Ideas.” The key to success lies in effective implementation. It is the same with corporate strategy implementation.

Research by my old Singapore pal, Robin SPeculand, shows that 90% of all strategy implementation programs fail. It is an issue of identifying the strategy and then having the ability to implement it. BOTH are obvious requirements but not everyone is good at all things. And failures to successfully implement are quite costly, since they tend to move into “organizational memory,” making future efforts even more difficult. Awareness is important, but so is executive leadership behavior!

In most organizations, people find that their managers will put the NO in innovation, roadblocking their individual efforts to make improvements. Take this simple statistic as proof: A Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. (And, 2007 were the good old days when it came to employee engagement and morale, it appears. If anything, things have gotten much worse with initiatives such as “Job Enlargement” being more common these days.)

Take a look at this data from an article by Les Leopold:

US Actual Wages vs Productivity-Enhanced wages from Les Leopold

On the one hand, productivity is improving. On the other, the compensation has not been increasing and the pin seems to have hit the balloon in the American workplace as well as elsewhere.

The pin finally hits the balloon and people are angry

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.

And there are broad issues of employee engagement and morale operating in most organizations these days. So it would seem obvious that there are some positive leverage points in the workplace that we can use effectively to improve how things are working to improve performance and morale and take a competitive advantage with new business strategies.

The real key is the successful implementation of ideas, either from the view of the entrepreneur or the manager looking to improve performance. If the senior managers have good ideas, they can generate involvement and engagement from their management team on designing successful implementation strategies. This is a tool for employee engagement as well as a way to improve organizational performance and long-term competitiveness.

For almost 20 years, I have been using a simple cartoon to describe how organizations really work — it is an inkblot for leading discussions as well as a metaphor for how things tend to roll along.

Consider that we are using a wooden wagon. A leader is pulling with a rope and people are behind the wagon, pushing it forward. It is rolling along on wooden Square Wheels, but with a cargo of round rubber tires.

SWs One green color thin

Someone in a workshop once said, “Those who do have no clue. Those who lead miss the need.” I think that describes the reality – the view at the back of the wagon (boards and hands) is different than the view at the front. The hands-on people KNOW that things are not working smoothly but have no ability to make the changes. The wagon puller is focused on meeting current goals and there is little time to stop and chat.

The round wheels already exist. In most organizations, the exemplary performers are already doing things differently and their sharing of best practices would be beneficial, if only we had the chance to stop, step back from the wagon, and discuss issues and opportunities.

I successful entrepreneurial businesses, you can see that the good idea(s) are shared with the people and that there is an engaged and involved workforce working to make those ideas a reality. This is the essence of entrepreneurial leadership, IMHO. It is really hard to go it alone, even when your idea is “most fabulous.” You need others to share the vision (and perspective) and to have a sense of ownership and involvement to generate the motivation and peer support to succeed.

Last key point: Nobody ever washes a rental car.

Without a sense of ownership involvement, it is not likely that people will be motivated, and thus the many issues around implementation and rollout of those good ideas will be roadblocks instead of challenges.

The Round Wheels of Today, are the Square Wheels of Tomorrow.

There will always be opportunities for people to implement and sell better ways of getting things done and improving performance. It is really about wheels and about people…

so, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!”

Step back from your wagon, scan the issues, and look for things that could be done differently. Then, involve and engage others in discussions about how to do things differently and how to implement these ideas.

See more on this at http://www.SquareWheels.com and see toolkits of illustrations at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

Scott Debrief

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott atscott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

On Brainstorming and workplace productivity improvement

I recently responded to a LinkedIn post on the theme of Brainstorming. And I am reminded about how some people are new at this while I have been facilitating performance improvement discussions for nearly 40 years (gee, can it really be that long?)

“Times fun when you are having flies.” (Kermit the Frog)

One of the keys to success in these kinds of activities is to generate some peer support for the ideas and “lightly” use the ground rules — but NOT to make the rules so tight that people feel that the rules are more important than the ideas. I have seen some “control freak facilitators” focus so much on the rules that people feel that NO comment can be made other than the sharing of an idea. I really feel that this serves only to limit contributions. The session CAN be a debate, if it is done with the intention of generating NEW ideas and different viewpoints.

I allow some divergent discussion, but I also will lightly use the Rule of 80 / 20, which simply says the obvious: “80% of the discussion will occur in the first 20% of the time and the remaining 20% will take 80% of the time. So, anyone can call “80/20″ and we can then move on to more ideas…” (That really works well, in my experience!)

It is MOST important, I think, that the ideas be anchored to some business improvement issue and that people have a chance to get their creativity juices flowing before the discussion gets going.

The tool I use is Square Wheels One, which is readily available on my website. One does not require a tool but this process of generating ideas through projection is certainly a solid one for creativity.

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

We use the Square Wheels cartoon to help generate ideas for business improvement

I present that as, “How most organizations really work,” so as to not make them defensive (the word “your” added in there is pretty much guaranteed to generate some resistance and defensiveness!). A KEY is to allow them, “One Minute of Silent Contemplation Time.” This enables the slower information processers to think about possibilities before getting swarmed by the faster ones. It also allows for divergent thinking to arise — different people will go off in different directions.

With tables of no more than 6 people — more will decrease collaboration and participation — you allow them to first think individually and then allow them to discuss their different issues and ideas. I let this run until the energy begins to dissipate and then move it to a group discussion. You can use easel pads for each table, dot-voting for best ideas and all sorts of other frameworks for getting everyone involved in all ideas.

THEN, you can begin to tighten the thinking and bring them closer toward focusing on key issues and ideas — we call this “funneling.”

Getting people involved helps generate better ideas as well as ownership involvement and engagement


If you build a sense of energy and involvement and peer support for ideas in your openings, and anchor the activities toward “business improvement paradigms,” I think you will find that your brainstorming will be much improved. If people feel safe in sharing their ideas about a funny wagon with obvious improvement opportunities, they are MUCH more likely to participate in the sharing of their ideas about specific business improvement concepts in the open discussions.

Everyone needs to participate, mainly because, “Nobody ever washes a rental car,” and it is not so much about ideas as it is about the IMPLEMENTATION of those ideas afterwards for most organizations.

Between the idea and the reality,
Between the motion and the act,
Falls the Shadow.

T.S. Eliot

You can see more about Square Wheels at http://www.PerformanceManagementCompany.com

For the FUN of It!

(BTW, I am a certified professional facilitator by the IAF and have been facilitating and implementing ideas for workplace improvement since 1978. )

Motivation, Collaboration, Engagement and Dis-Un-Empowerment*

Dis-un-empowerment: The removal of those performance-influencing factors (real or believed) that are thought to be un-empowering by the individual or individuals.

And we can define Motivation as the absence of de-motivating factors.

The concept of empowering people is really a difficult one – lots of things have been written about it over the years but it requires the active involvement of senior managers, a whole lot of trust between managers and employees, and often some significant changes in workplace culture.

Plus there is the reality that one cannot really empower someone else – try it with a teenager if you need any proof of this!

I posted my first article on this subject back in 2006 and got a lot of interesting feedback about this simple but effective approach to involving and engaging people in an activity to improve morale, motivation and real performance.

We take the simple and somewhat obvious position that most people are far from actually being empowered or more properly, acting empowered. There are tons of statistics that support this notion.

So what are we actually talking about here? Let me start with a few simple examples of engaged and motivated people:

1) At a major hotel chain, employees are wearing buttons that say, “Yes I can.” I ask the front-desk clerk if she could give me a button because I am speaking that next morning on customer service and she says, “No, I can’t.”

She really did want to give it to me, but she said wearing the button was required as management’s policy, that they were expected to have one on, the hotel didn’t have extras and that she would be yelled at by her boss for not having a button. Caught in a dilemma, she was not able to do what the company or customer wanted her to do. (I did persuade her to give me the button and I used it in my session, explaining the dilemma she faced. Heck, I even invited her boss to sit in for free (but he did not!)).

The paradox is that management is telling her to act one way while asking her to follow a policy that blocks this request.

2) At McGuffey’s Restaurants, employees and managers wore buttons saying, “The Answer is Yes.” Unlike the above, ask anyone for a button, and they’ll give you their very last one, knowing this response is the expectation of top management. The employees are simply trusted to act appropriately. This attitude infected all kinds of behaviors, with waitresses making a quick run to McDonalds to buy a customer’s kid a Big Mac, raising money for charities or driving to the grocery store to buy anchovies for my Caesar salad.

Top performers, the ones who build positive long-term relationships with customers, will often bend rules and make decisions for the long-term good of the customer relationship when necessary. They tend to retain customers and build loyalty. At the other end of the spectrum, many people will blindly follow policies, procedures, systems and all those constraints that they believe are imposed on them from all over the place, significantly impacting performance.

Many people in the workplace are un-empowered and thus un-responsive and roadblocked by their perceptions of what the organization wants. Or they are roadblocked by their own beliefs about their capabilities. Or, they simply do not know how to get things accomplished.

My answer to performance improvement is simple and straightforward – let’s remove those things that individuals and groups feel are blocking their responsiveness and performance. That is not to say that we change all the policies and procedures, but that we discuss the approach of the top performers in the context of the organization.

If people are un-empowered, then let’s remove the things that might be blocking performance. Let’s work to limit the perceived roadblocks and provide some useful strategies and tactics to work around things inhibiting better results, on an individual and group basis. Thus,

Improvement is all about people; people dis-un-empowered to make decisions to the benefit of the customer and the company. And we know from decades of behavioral research that peer support can work wonders on individual performance, if we allow or encourage it.

What is Dis-Un-Empowerment and how do we Implement?

There are two issues to dis-un-empowerment, the organizational ones and the personal ones. Personal dis-un-empowerment issues are sometimes less clear, while it is easy to get consensus on common organizational ones.

Astronaut Scott Carpenter gave a nice analogy about walking in space. Years of training, simulations, and practice in weightless conditions as well as hundreds of hours of discussion and preparation did not adequately prepare him for the reality of standing in the doorway of the spacecraft with black infinity in every direction. He thought he could do it, but he froze. Wouldn’t you? There are direct parallels to dis-un-empowering people.

The American Society for Quality Control reported that while two in three workers said they had been asked to become involved in workplace decision-making, only one in seven felt they had the power to make those decisions. And if they don’t feel dis-un-empowered to make decisions, they won’t make them. And a Sirota Survey of 2007 found that 85% of employees say their morale declines significantly after spending 6 months on the job. 

Why don’t most people feel able to make improvements? Because they are uncomfortable doing things differently than they have done them before. Most people will resist change.

“The only change people like is the kind that jingles in their pockets.”
my friend, Jerry Brown

“Change is good. You go first.
Dilbert Principles

Note that almost every organization has a few top-performing employees doing exactly what is necessary to generate results. They are the people that have the highest productivity and profitability.

Exemplary performers manage roadblocks much more effectively and tend to have clearer perspectives and focus on what your customers require. They also tend to focus on doing the small things that truly make a difference in building a client relationship with the customer. But also recognize that they often bend the rules to do what is right — thus delivering the highest perceived value.

A few years ago, Frank Navran had the opportunity to observe the role that perception plays in people’s ability to manage obstacles. Frank was involved in a performance improvement project and asked to observe a work group to identify the behavioral, attitudinal and/or skills and knowledge differences between the exemplary performers, average performers and poor performers.

The intent was to identify those differences so that an intervention could be devised to make the average and poor performers more like their exemplary peers to raise overall unit performance levels.

What ensued was rather frustrating for the consultant and the client. Aside from the actual performance results there were no noticeable behavioral differences. The only apparent difference was the workers’ response to the question, “What is keeping you from performing at a higher level?

  • The exemplary performers said they had fewer than 3 perceived roadblocks to higher performance levels.
  • The average performers identified 6 roadblocks each.
  • The poor performers cited 12 or more reasons why they could not perform at a higher level.

Their significance was twofold:

1. As all employees worked under near identical conditions nothing differed except their perception of the number of obstacles to exemplary performance facing them.

2. The differences seemed to be more perceptual than real. This lead the consultant to the hypothesis that in this client’s organization the performance difference might be related to the employee’s perceptions about his or her own power to remove the roadblocks to higher level performance.

Further testing proved him right. In addition, the consultant observed that employee perceptions fell into four sets or categories that could be generalized and applied to other cases. These can be drawn as a Square, of course:

Category 1 – BRICK WALLs

Some roadblocks are truly unalterable. There are things in the real world facing people that inhibit their performance which they are not likely to change: the effectiveness of a foreign competitor’s product, the slumping national economy, the international exchange rate, the organizational structure at the organization, the funding and paperwork processes for new product development, etc. These are all factors which affect employee performance but are well beyond individual or collective control. Characterize these as brick walls: immovable and real.

Category 2 – PARTITIONs

The second category of roadblocks are those that can be managed through with effort, time, money and/or additional personnel, or other resources. The individual employee might make some degree of progress in overcoming this particular inhibitor to performance. Often a small group of employees can make even more progress collectively. And, most importantly, this type of roadblock can be managed in large part or totally, if supervision or management gets involved. This type of roadblock is characterized as a partition, since a partition, if pushed from the bottom, might move slightly, but if pushed from a higher level will often topple. These are real roadblocks which the employees require assistance to remove.

Category 3 – PAPER WALLs

The third category was reminiscent of a football game where the home team burst through a paper barrier to the cheers of the crowd at the start. Until tested, this roadblock often looks impenetrable. Workplace examples are common, and include the belief that the boss will not approve, that it won’t be supported by another department, that it is “policy” or the way things have always been done, etc.

But people discover that these beliefs aren’t true when they test these perceptions. Others have done things differently and are doing things differently. But, unless tested, this roadblock is just as effective in preventing performance as the first two. These are manageable, but also real.

Category 4 – MINDSETs

This type of roadblock is the most troubling to management. It represents the untested beliefs and perceptions. When people believe they can’t, they are correct. These roadblocks are de-actualizing and restrictive, yet arbitrarily so in that they really do not exist. Interestingly, these are generally the most common of all the different types and the ones that block the below average performers from improvement.

Using the Model

It is always fascinating to observe how different employees manage the different roadblocks they face. Top performers, as a group, are generally not impeded by many of the things that get in the way of average or poor performers. Their model of how things really work appears to be more proactive and behaviorally-oriented. They are generally more willing to test the roadblocks to see which are which and are often quick to refer the Category 1 and 2 roadblocks to management whereas they push through the 3s and 4s.

Average performers, on the other hand, are sometimes stymied by roadblocks in many cases. Some may stubbornly push the 1s and try to get them to move even though they do not have the power to do so. They may often spend a lot of individual time on the 2s, trying to generate change and feeling good when they manage to get past them; this behavior, while well-intentioned, may not be time and energy effective!

Poor performers can generate long lists of roadblocks that get in the way of getting things done. They face innumerable hurdles in their everyday job and can constantly point out the things that cause their performance levels to be low.

How to deliver the theme:

So, here’s an empowering exercise that you can easily do to help reshape the thinking of the poor performers and generate new alternative behaviors among the average ones.

Use a flip chart and masking tape and start a meeting with the question, “What are some of the roadblocks to getting things done around here?” or similar. Allow the group to brainstorm and write everything down.

(Note: You might want to set the Rules as, “All comments are okay, everything gets written down and we discuss the specifics of each idea when we complete the list. No negative reactions are allowed in this part of the meeting.”)

Capture all of the ideas without reframing or rewording, since changing wording might change the meaning or it may be perceived as a “put-down” to an employee with less than perfect language skills who might then not participate any longer. You can also ask for clarification after you write it down, making notes on the page.

Ask individuals, if necessary, to generate the participation of everyone, but expect more roadblocks to come from the average and poor performers. Write them all down. You may also prompt, when the going gets slow, by saying something as, “How about the interdepartmental things?”

Post up the sheets as they become filled and do not be surprised to get 10 or more pages (my personal record: 22 pages!). The more the better. Really!

Once the list is essentially complete, share the model of Roadblock Management with them, describing the categories and the general frameworks of each.

Now, go back through this list and have the group categorize, as best they can, the nature of each of the roadblocks. Let THEM do this — that way it is their list and not yours!

What you will discover is that 80% of the roadblocks will be 3s and 4s and that the top performers will often offer everyone suggestions as to how to manage the 2s more effectively. The Category 1 roadblocks are those that you should volunteer to escalate and some of the 2s might be addressed by a team of your people, including some of the poorer performers.

Celebrate any ideas for improvement and attempts to address specific problems. And be sure to get out of the way as the group and individuals now engage in some dis-un-empowerment.

© Performance Management Company, 1998 – 2010 All Rights Reserved.

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Thoughts on Teamwork and Engagement Part 2

This is about some ideas and solutions around people and performance and it is about Teamwork and Collaboration!

Typical recommendations about what to do tend to go along the same lines, like these Top 10 Drivers of Employee Engagement Globally (from TowersPerrin, 2009):

  1. Senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  2. Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year
  3. Organization’s reputation for social responsibility
  4. Input into decision making in my department
  5. Organization quickly resolves customer concerns
  6. Set high personal standards
  7. Have excellent career advancement opportunities
  8. Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills
  9. Good relationship with supervisor
  10. Organization encourages innovative thinking

Note that the above says little about how teamworkand especially cross-functional or interdepartmental teamwork, can help involve and engage people in shared goals and missions.

Yet we know that people working together – actively engaging with others to focus on accomplishing an important result – is a very strong motivator of individual performance and something which generates collective engagement. Peer support is a powerful driver of accomplishment, so doing things to generate more acceptance and a shared mission among people can be really helpful. Corporate team building is a missing ingredient in many organizations work process improvement strategies.

What is surprising as well as disappointing is that 42% of US HR executives – today — still have “reducing headcount” as their top priority!  (from Deloitte’s Talent Pulse, July 2009) We hear this in reading about the lack of senior management support for recruitment efforts, for example. We see it in the way training for workplace improvement is budgeted.

“Improving organizational performance” was not even on the list of things to do! Yet 65% of these HR Execs are highly or very-highly concerned about losing high-potential performers in the year the recession ends and many see it now (26%) and many employers have done NOTHING to plan for when the economy recovers and few HR execs seem to understand the negative impacts! (Deloitte)

Companies are spending on new hire training to get them up to speed on systems and processes. Little is being spent on workplace improvements and little is being done to involve people in generating ideas for improvement. The former National Association of Suggestion Systems is now the Employee Involvement Association (http://www.eianet.org) and the website was copyright 2006 and no meetings were listed on their website. It still exists, but there does not appear to be a LOT of activity around involvement and improvement.


Collaboration generates better ideas as well as engagement 

Employers need to demonstrate to the workers that people are important in their organizations and that it is important that people feel part of the team. Pay and all those other attractors are important, but as attractors. To generate performance, people need to feel that their efforts are appreciated and recognized.

The real leverage comes from improving teamwork and collaboration between departments. That is where lots of improvements in overall effectiveness can be found, but capturing these opportunities and implementing change and improvement is difficult as well as political, in many cases.

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron – two words that do not go together well.

Interdepartmental Collaboration color yellow

Interdepartmental Collaboration is an oxymoron in most organizations

Today’s organizational complexities make it very difficult for even highly effective leaders to motivate people and effectively implement improvements with team involvement. It takes team perspective and alignment to get things done in most cases. But pressures to produce will often lead to tops-down initiatives driven into the workplace – behaviors known to generate resistance and a variety of other negative impacts.

What to do? Here are a few ideas:

  • Discover some initiatives that support inter-disciplinary or cross-functional teamwork and engage people in a vision and focus on accomplishments.
  • Ask people to define what inter-departmental initiatives might have significant performance improvement impacts.
  • Identify the key steps in implementing results and develop some form of checklist of critical activities. A variety of these exist but the best will generally come from an analysis of the key steps taken in the most successful previous successes in your own organization. Each culture is different and there is no silver bullet in terms of how things get done within each company. The best predictor of future success is the successful past behavior.
  • Minimize the perceived risk of involvement and allow the activity to generate peer support and recognition
  • Provide for a variety of intrinsic motivators. Do not just rely on extrinsic ones.
  • Look for a myriad of ways that management can show support – both the managers of the group as well as the managers of the managers. Get lots of recognition for the activity of trying to improve.
  • Look to manage the roadblocks and anticipate the problems that they might have in implementing changes.
  • Find some budget for support. Don’t allow financial needs to delay movement forward, since momentum and enthusiasm will be lost.

What are YOUR ideas about making these improvements?

Scott small pic

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

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Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids

Some thoughts on the Rating of Difficulty of Coaching and Whitewater River Running

Some people feel that running whitewater rapids in a kayak is a lot like coaching difficult performers. Sometimes the rapid is an easy one that you can just float through without a lot of preparation or even much observation. In other cases, where the water and the “drop” is a bit more difficult, it may make sense to get out of the boat, walk along the shore and take a look at what you are about to encounter so that you can plan a route through with the highest likelihood of success.

In the case of very difficult whitewater, you may want to have a good deal of information about the situation available, have a plan for other observers to share their thoughts on how to succeed and even have a plan for someone to throw you a rope if things get really tight. And sometimes scouting that rapid is in order so that the difficulties can be avoided or responses can be planned.

So here is how rapids in a river are rated insofar as difficulty:

Class 1: Easy. 
Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few general obstructions exist and all obvious and readily missed. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

Saluda

Class i – II Saluda River (SC)

Class 2: Novice. 
Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily avoided, if desired, by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and assistance, while possibly helpful, is seldom needed.

Class 3: Intermediate. 
Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open boat like a canoe or flip a kayak. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good control in tight passages is required; large waves may be present but may be avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable, especially for inexperienced participants. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims and water up your nose!

Class 4: Advanced. 
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn into quiet waters may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must-make” moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting often necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. A strong roll is highly recommended.

Class 5: Expert. 
Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids with drops that may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but even this may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. A very reliable roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.

Class 6: Extreme and Exploratory. 
These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class 6 rapid has been successfully navigated many times and routes and strategies become known, its rating may be downgraded to Class 5 and the difficulty is actually lessened and the required “moves” become known.

Coaching is a lot like whitewater play

If you have the skills, you can have fun in the difficult stuff. This is called a pop-up! Wheeeee…

In the next post that appears here, I will describe how coaching situations can be matched up to these ratings, and how the strategies for running white water rapids can be useful in planning and executing these coaching sessions.

 

Scott in Dancer

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

 

Coaching and the Parallels to Running Whitewater Rapids, Part 2

The Whitewater of Coaching Improved Performance (Part Two.)

You can find Part One of this article by clicking here

Okay, so let’s talk about these as they relate to improving competence and results in the workplace as these ratings relate to coaching. Obviously, some situations are much easier and less risky than others, with the more difficult ones requiring more thought.

Class 1 situations are pretty simple and have a high likelihood of a positive outcome. You do not need much preparation and planning and you can get this done relatively easily – you can float through these types with little emotion or adrenaline. An example might be a new employee who you are coaching on how to use the software or a database they need for doing their job. Or, a new process is introduced and you are spot-checking quality or completeness of the work and have a few comments to one of your people about specific improvement. You will seldom find yourself “swimming.”

Some serious calm water - EASY!

Some serious calm water – EASY!

Class 2 situation might be one where the person has been doing the job for a while and thinks that they understand all sides of the situation and how fast they need to work, but the reality is a little different from your perspective. They might be at the old work standard rate while you need them to perform more efficiently.  You may not need to collect any information other than an example or two and there is not a lot of emotion or reaction predicted. This is the kind of discussion that you might want to have away from the workplace but not one of those held in a closed-door office.

But you definitely want to think things out first and not go in unprepared. You might want to check the information against other data or another person just to be sure. It is possible that you will have to move a bit out of your planned channel to get to the end of the situation.

Class 3 situation should not be your first coaching experience, since some degree of planning and preparation is generally helpful and you may want to rehearse your moves prior to floating into the river. You should have some skills in changing the direction of the conversation, since the rock (an excuse) might necessitate some maneuvering. You may find yourself out of the current (in an eddy) where making progress is not possible until you re-enter the main flow.

In these situation, you will want to scout the rapid first, maybe discover the kinds of previous discussions and difficulties management may have had with the individual as well as look at performance data, training histories and other materials. Once you’ve run these kinds of rapids a few times, your skill level increase generally is very helpful for keeping discussions on track, keeping emotions at a manageable level, and being prepared to “roll” back up should you find yourself upside down.

One can generally self-rescue from a Class 3 rapid but it may require a bit of swimming and life preservers and helmets are required! Just thinking about a Class 3 situation is enough to generate some level of adrenaline, but good planning and some solid skills are generally all that you need.

Class 4 coaching situations are best done when you have solid Class 3 skills. Redirecting in the heavy current of sideways distractions and some up and down boat movement, even a waterfall or two, is important to navigating successfully. You most definitely want to check out the rapid before paddling in – and it is often good to watch others run these kinds of situations in order to develop a set of strategies and tactics that will allow you to be upright at the bottom.

With a strong roll, you will be able to move from being upside down and back into a controlling mode when things go wrong but you will need to precisely handle yourself so that you do not flip over again right away. Self-rescue is most difficult and you should be able to stop the conversation, take a time out for getting your breath, before you reenter the fray. This takes both knowledge of when and how to pull out of the mainstream and into an eddy (slow moving calm place) as well as when to reenter the flow – skills not easily learned but that come with practice.

Liken a Class 4 Coaching Event to a performance improvement discussion with the workplace’s Union Rep or someone of similar perceived stature in your workplace. The situation is one that is manageable, but you do not do this as your first try after your training class. And you want to be sure that the risk and the reward are comparable in nature before venturing in. Getting water up your nose and bouncing your limbs off the rocks while cascading downstream is not the most pleasant situation. At the same time, looking back upstream after successfully negotiating a Class 4 Coaching Event is a for-sure confidence builder and proof that you have developed some fine skills.

Cautionary Note: Running the rapids is a workplace endeavor; do not try running these rapids with your spouse or children! They have a tendency to be able to move the rocks around while you are in the current, creating unexpected hazards that are difficult to manage.  

Classes 5 and 6 – Realize that these situations will exist in the workplace. An example might include coaching your boss’ boss about what they need to do differently or trying to initiate a major new process improvement amongst a group of long-term workers that may reduce their numbers. Generally, one can hear a Class 5 or Class 6 rapid from a long distance away by the roar it makes as water cascades in major falls, pouring over large rocks and creating large unpredictable waves.

Lava Falls or Crystal Rapid on the Colorado are runnable rapids that you can actually hear echoing through the canyon a mile away; they sound like a freight train without the whistle and you get goose bumps on your arms and the hair on the back of your neck starts to stand up long before you are close enough to even get out of your boat to go scout them. It is impossible for someone not to realize that they are there and that they represent a very special situation.

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

ONE of the big holes in Lava Falls on the Colorado River

Like the big water surfers at the North Shore of Oahu during Pacific storms, there are people who LIKE to play in these monsters and deal with the ensuing chaos. But they are near-professional in their skill levels, real experts with many years of practice and often with great personal coaches in their own histories.

wave_large1Being in superb physical condition with good reflexes is also a great help in boating, and probably relates to how you need to be prepared for some of the more serious coaching situations. Consider training and planning for your improvement opportunities based on the difficulty of the predicted waves you will encounter.

Lastly, recognize that people do have fun running rivers! This is ME, under control and having fun! But you have to be in the right place, too. Planning all that stuff upstream helps you be successful on the downstream side of things…

Scott Simmerman running a Class V whitewater rapid - Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River

PMC sells a variety of simple to use but powerful training and development tools to trainers and consultants worldwide. Visit our website for more information.

One example is this illustration, which can be used for coaching because it sets up a conversation about “things that are not working smoothly” with the understanding that “Round Wheels are already in the wagon.”

Using the metaphor and the visual helps the person being coached to avoid the emotionality and feelings of being attacked in a performance discussion focused on implementing improvement. “What are some Square Wheels — and what are some possible Round Wheel solutions?”

Square Wheels One LEGO image by Scott Simmerman

This is very serious stuff, these discussions about people and performance. But actively involving the other person in a conversation about issues and opportunities is how you improve their involvement and engagement in doing things better.

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, he spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big waters in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

Scott in Dancer

Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant. 
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

Follow Scott’s posts on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/scottsimmerman/

Note: Scott began rafting on the Chattooga River in 1975, shortly after the movie, Deliverance, (Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight) was filmed there. Progressing from rafts to canoes to kayaks over the next 20 years, Scott spent about 5 years in serious pursuit of big water and high adrenaline, running most of the big rapids in California and elsewhere and having run the Grand Canyon’s Colorado River on 3 occasions. Scott fully understands the implications of, “The older we get, the faster we were” and therefore limits his whitewater to much more manageable levels these days. He is a skilled coach and occasionally teaches an effective course on confronting poor performance, a skill level past one of coaching – the real Class 5 and 6 stuff.

Implementing Improvement – Ideas on Brainstorming

“Nobody ever washes a rental car!“

If one is to expect anything to happen after any training, they must insure that there is buy-in and participation and engagement. One often hears that we need to “empower” the participants go actually go out and do something. Well, I strongly disagree with that – With a doctorate in psychology and 30+ years of consulting and training experience, I have no clue as to how to empower anyone to actually DO anything.

I believe that there are many many opportunities for workplace improvement among individuals and among small groups. There is also some general motivation to make improvements if people see a gap between what happens now and what could or should be happening. Cognitive Dissonance is but one framework that supports this idea of intrinsic motivation for improvement.

But in the workplace in most organizations, and especially in today’s risk-averse and “job enhanced” environments, the real key to rolling forward is not something like feedback or empowerment; I think it is Dis-Un-Empowerment that needs to be addressed and implemented.

Most of us make choices all through the day as to what we will do or not do. Often, we choose NOT to do something because we perceive roadblocks (example: “He won’t support that idea because he did not support the last idea I had…”).

Most people can think of LOTS of things that would get in the way of implementing some idea or ideas for improvement (“It might be against policy.” “There probably won’t be any support / resources for that.”)

One key role of training (and management and coaching) is to act to REMOVE the perceived or potential roadblocks that are un-empowering to people acting individually or in groups. That can be accomplished by getting pre-ordained support from managers not in the workshop, having managers come into the training session to hear the ideas and manage the roadblocks (and have THEIR roadblocks managed – many managers are even more roadblocked than their people!) and for the trainer to have a very good background understanding of what can be done and how it can be accomplishes.

One of the things we miss today are trainers with the extensive background in how to implement and measure the effectiveness of the training when it comes to workplace improvement. There are lots of factors operating there, which can be one of the reasons that outside consultants can often get things accomplished when inside ones cannot — they have the power of money and support behind them.

Knowing how the most success PAST improvements were  implemented can often share insight into how the next FUTURE improvement might be implemented. There are cultural keys that offer perspective on these kinds of things.

Creating a gap between how things are now (Square Wheels thumping and bumping along) and how things could be operating (Round Wheels already exist) and defining an implementation strategy for making small and continuous changes and improvements often makes change and improvement very doable.


But the key is that feeling of ownership involvement. Too many people “rent” their time to an organization and simply choose to go through the motions of keeping employment, rather than buying-in and being sufficiently engaged to improve workplace improvement. The statistics on engagement and on “ready to leave for a new job elsewhere” are pretty discouraging… But good managers generate it while average ones do not.

After all, how many of the readers of this blog are ready to jump ship right now if another offer came along and how many are actively searching for new employment? The stats say about half…

How many are brainstorming new ideas to start businesses or taking a class to be more marketable in the very near future?

And most people do want to make a positive impact on the work they do and the workplace around them. Many really WANT things to be better, if their managers will let them do so. It was Peter Drucker who said that managers basically prevented people from doing their jobs in many cases.

Things are NOT good — According to a November 2011 analysis of its database of 5,700 employers representing 5 million employees, human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt reported that engagement levels indicate the workforce is by and large indifferent to organizational success or failure.

That should concern all of us interested in productivity and performance.

You can read more about Dis-Un-Engagement by clicking on the link and thus searching the blog.And, an article is here.

Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There.
Look for ways to make things better!

=Square Wheels Icebreaker icon

For the FUN of It!

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Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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A Free Holiday Training Tool for Performance Improvement

If you would like a free, playful training tool to use during the holidays as an intro to a performance improvement initiative or implementation, meeting opener or “just for the fun of it,” use the link, below, to download Santa’s Square Wheels® Magic Trick. It’s based on our Square Wheels Illustrations and performance improvement products that we enjoy using as the source, each year, for creating some holiday fun.

This year, we’ve just released Santa’s Square Wheels Magic Trick and are making it available for anyone to download for free. You can watch the demo video of my doing this trick to get a better idea of what it’s about. All you need is a printer and glue stick to make the magic happen for your audience, young or old.

Here’s how it all began:

Santa unexpectedly appeared in his Workshop one frosty eve
telling the Elves and Reindeer he had something up his sleeve.
What is it? they exclaimed, looking perplexed, even suspicious.
Relax now, replied Santa, I think you’ll find this quite delicious.

Remember when we used to have Square Wheels on our Sleigh
until we stepped back to see round wheels offered a better way?
It was all about using your ideas that we would share and discuss
and, thereby, we implemented changes that motivated all of us!

Of course, they replied, we all put our heads together with pleasure
and changed our square-wheeled Sleigh to deliver beyond measure!
It’s amazing how using Square Wheels de-motivated us about work
but now with Round Wheels our attitudes changed and that’s a perk.

Ho, ho, ho, chuckled Santa, now, look here, as your Ole St. Nick
is about to reveal, just for you, a Square Wheels® Magic Trick.
Use it as a reminder that keeping those Round Wheels in our sight
is what helps us give Kids around the world many squeals of delight.

Take a look at Santa’s Magic Trick and you’ll discover the transformation!

“Season’s Greetings and Round Wheels to All” is his gleeful exclamation!

Download Santa’s Magic Trick and try it yourself!

 

 

<a rel="author" href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/114758253812293832123">Scott on Google+<a>Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.
Connect with Scott on Google+ – you can reach Scott at scott@squarewheels.com

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